Friday, 8 April 2011

Looking back - where did it all go right

Now all involved have been properly thanked - we can look back at the more-successful and, er, less-successful projects that the NGS has undertaken.

When phase 3 of the NGS started in April 2009, the first thing we did was to make a list.

It wasn't exactly a To-Do list, more of a Could-Do list.

We asked for suggestions for new `services' - 'service' here being a woolly term for something that someone, somewhere might find useful - and collected just short of 40 ideas. These covered the themes of Advanced Reservation, Middleware deployment, User facing services and Data access.

It would have been impossible - given the time and staff available - to implement them all. We had to identify those that were impractical and concentrate on the most promising few. Sometimes we got it more-or-less right; sometimes we didn't. As has been noted before `If we knew what it was we were doing, it wouldn't be called research, would it?'.

In this post, I would like to mention those places where, in my opinion, we got it right - starting with the NGS communities.

Our users have to spend time obtaining a certificate and applying for an NGS account. We wanted to make that account as useful to them as possible.

With communities, individuals can associate themselves with subject area - anything from Aerospace to Zoology - and search for others in the same area. They can look for people based at their home institution, or read the descriptions of their work that others have entered.

Behind the scenes, we also added tags - labels that the NGS support staff can associate with a user and with membership of a group within a Virtual Organisation.

A tag can, for example, identify someone as a legitimate user of a piece of licensed software - and that information can be used to make that piece of software software available on different hosts. This avoids some of the complications of licensing on the Grid.

No list of R+D projects would be complete without a reference to the technology behind the NGS interactive Applications page - where present the list of available software on the NGS website for users to explore.

These are not huge projects or major changes in technology. What we wanted to do - and I hope have done - is to make the grid a little more friendly and a little more useful.

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